2023 Formula One (F1) season preview
🏎 How it works
F1 is the most elite level of car racing in the world. While NASCAR enthusiasts may disagree, comparing the two is like apples to oranges. If NASCAR were a marathon, F1 would be a sprint. A sleek, glorious, international sprint.
F1 drivers usually get their start in go-karting at a pretty young age (we’re talking grade school) and then work their way up through various feeder systems to reach the top.
- Unlike other sports, where hundreds or even thousands of athletes can “go pro,” there are only 20 active F1 drivers per season (plus a few reserves, like Ricciardo, as needed), making it one of the most difficult sports to break into.
- There are 10 teams in F1, and each team fields two drivers. Part of what makes the sport so unique is that teammates compete against each other. Given they’re driving identical cars and mostly have the same resources, teammate rivalries are often very intense (looking at you, McLaren).
The F1 season runs from March to November, with somewhere north of 20 races — each called a Grand Prix — held across five continents. Drivers usually practice on Friday, qualify for starting positions on Saturday and race on Sunday.
- Drivers earn points based on how they finish in races, and the individual driver with the highest accumulated score wins the World Drivers’ Championship.
- Teams also earn points by adding both of their drivers’ scores together, and the team with the highest combined score takes home the World Constructors’ Championship. The stakes are high.
⚙️ The engineering
The “formula” in Formula One refers to an FIA-mandated set of rules that all teams must follow when constructing their cars, and teams employ hundreds of engineers and mechanics to make their two cars the best they can be while also satisfying the requirements.
- Plus, in an effort to level the playing field, the FIA implemented a budget cap for the first time in 2021, ensuring teams don’t spend more than $135M total.
But, plot twist — F1 introduced new technical regulations last season, which ushered in all-new designs. For the 2023 season, cars are expected to be slightly different in “micro-areas” as more changes to the technical regulations were announced.
- The bottom line? Cars will be designed to race more closely to one another, resulting in tighter battles. Sign us up.
💪 The athletics
Driving an F1 car isn’t as easy as it looks. Vehicles can hit a max speed of about 360km/h or 223 mph, which means that throughout an approximately 90-minute race, drivers endure G-forces similar to what astronauts experience in a rocket launch.
- The brakes on an F1 car are so intense that they can literally pull tears from a driver’s eyes. And if that’s not enough, the average driver can lose up to 10 lbs per race.
Drivers must have particular body attributes and skills to fit the F1 mold: slim but muscular, not too tall, ridiculously strong necks and insanely quick reflexes. Because of that, F1 drivers have one of the weirdest training regimens in sports. It’s not for the faint of heart.
🤩 Names to know
Max Verstappen, Red Bull: Fresh off his second consecutive World Drivers’ Championship, Dutch superstar Verstappen is no doubt the driver to beat once again. But his actions over the years, still have many rooting against him.
Sergio “Checo” Pérez, Red Bull: Verstappen’s teammate finished close behind in third last season, putting a target on Red Bull’s back entering this year’s slate. Nicknamed “Mexico’s Minister of Defense,” for being a good teammate to Verstappen, don’t be surprised to see Pérez top some podiums this season.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari: The face of arguably the most famous team in F1, Leclerc lived up to the hype, finishing second last season. He was born and raised in Monte Carlo, Monaco — the site of F1’s most popular race — and the sport has been a part of the 25-year-old’s life from an early age.
Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes: One of the most well-known names in F1, the Brit had a disappointing 2022 as the seven-time World Champion (tied for the most of any driver) failed to secure any wins or pole position finishes.
- As F1’s only Black driver, Hamilton isn’t solely concerned with driving fast. The 38-year-old has become a driver of social change too, donating his own money in an effort to diversify the sport. How can you not be a fan?
Oscar Piastri, McLaren: The Australian rookie certainly made his mark after dramatically switching to McLaren from Alpine, where he was a reserve driver in 2022. Time will tell if the young buck can leave an impression on the track, too.
Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo: The first full-time Chinese F1 driver in history, Zhou Guanyu had a solid rookie season last year. Now the 23-year-old will be looking to beat the sophomore slump and notch his first win.
🇨🇦 The Canadian
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin: After years without much red and white representation on the grid, the 24-year-old has been putting the
team country on his back. In 2017, Stroll became the first Canadian to reach the podium since Jacques Villeneuve in 2001. Magnifique.
📺 How to tune in
Qualifying (aka how the race order is decided) is set for today at 10 a.m. ET and then the real fun begins with tomorrow’s 10 a.m. ET Bahrain Grand Prix (airing on ESPN in the U.S., TSN4 in Canada), the first of 23 races this season. It’s lights out and away we go.